Medieval art history has recently witnessed a theoretical intervention through studies on the senses, especially touch and sight, and their relation to representation and social practice.1 In particular, theories of phenomenal relations between observers and objects have gained a foothold, small as it may be, in the ever-expanding branch of art history that deals with reception or response theory. By foregrounding ritualistic and performative values through the phenomenal relations engendered between beholders and objects, scholars are beginning to ask how objects were designed to communicate formally in situ to edify and engage their viewers. This new intellectual framework entices by refocusing attention away from purely iconographic or patronage-laden analyses to those that reconstruct the spatio-temporal experiences of beholders. This framework also opens onto a new understanding of the historicity of objects and performances impossible to locate in texts.

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These issues dovetail nicely in two recent books published by Ashgate,...

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